Absence makes Morgan's heart grow fonder in title pursuit
Skipper Caoimhe Morgan has been conspicuous by her absence from the Armagh ladies football team for the past year.
A cruciate ligament injury sustained in the closing stages of last year's All-Ireland Championship consigned her role to that of a reluctant spectator as the Orchard County journeyed through their league campaign this year before finding an extra gear to book their place in today's Ulster Senior Championship final against reigning champions Donegal, who will be looking for their third successive title.
And for Morgan, a PE teacher in St Catherine's College, Armagh the match could have extra-special significance.
Not only is she hopeful of playing a part - she came on for fifteen minutes in the semi-final win over Monaghan - but she is keen to see Armagh take delivery of the trophy.
"We had a good league campaign without quite getting to where we wanted to be at the end," says Morgan with typical candour. "But we have stepped things up for the Championship and that win over Monaghan, who are a really outstanding side, has given us all a lift."
Kerry Mallon has been superb in her role as Armagh's stand-in skipper and she will again have a major part to play tomorrow alongside seasoned players such as Caroline O'Hanlon, the Mackin sisters Blaithin and Aimee, Aoife McCoy, Megan Sheridan, Eve Lavery, Niamh Reel and Meabh Moriarty.
Aimee Mackin has been topping the scoring charts for Armagh of late but injury prevented her from starting in the semi-final against Monaghan.
Joint team managers Fionnuala McAtamney and Lorraine McCaffrey are hopeful, though, that the free-scoring Mackin will play some part against the Ulster champions.
Donegal will come to the table heavily armed with attacking resources. Skipper Karen Guthrie and Geraldine McLaughlin are in the vanguard of a forward division that is laden with talent.
In racking up 0-24 against Cavan in their semi-final victory, the duo underlined their devastating scoring power by landing 0-22 between them with the unstoppable McLaughlin hitting 0-14.
The Armagh rearguard can expect to come under strong pressure tomorrow particularly in the first-half when Donegal will undoubtedly seek to impose themselves on the game.
Donegal manager Maxie Curran admits that his side "sailed close to the wind" when they were taken to extra-time by Cavan in the semi-final but will now put his trust in players such as Kate Heron, Emer Gallagher, Roisin Friel, Nicole McLaughlin, Niamh Carr and Amy Boye-Carr, as well of course as sharp-shooting duo Guthrie and McLaughlin, to help keep his side on the Ulster throne.
"We know Armagh will be tough opponents. They have a lot of experienced players who are used to playing in high-profile games," states Curran.
Armagh vs Donegal
Ulster Ladies SFC Final
St Tiernach's Park, Clones,Tomorrow 3.45 pm